Pole to Pole by Michael Palin Who is Michael Palin? Michael Palin achieved fame in the United Kingdom as a comedian. He was a member of the team who created the funny TV show, Monty Python's Flying Circus, which made him famous around the world. He now writes books and presents TV programmes. He has a cheerful personality. His background in comedy enables him to see the funny side of situations, and he can strike up relationships easily with strangers. That is why he is so successful in presenting travel programmes. What kind of book is this? This is a book based on a TV series. Palin starts from the North Pole and travels all the way to the South Pole. The journey took him five months through 17 different countries. He rode on ships, trucks, rafts, buses, horse-drawn carts, balloons and bicycles - to name just a few! He went through every climate zone in the world, from the snow and ice of the Arctic and Antarctic to the stifling heat and deserts of Africa. The book describes his adventures and the people he met. Use the photographs This book is very long, so you might be reluctant to tackle it. However, it is full of beautiful and interesting photographs. The photos not only make the book more enjoyable, they also provide clues to help you understand the text. The book also describes the different episodes in his journey. You can skip some parts if they are boring and pick up the journey again later in the book. Three episodes you will like Day 31: Novgorod On this day, Palin is in Russia and meets a filmmaker called Edward Ranenko. He has dinner with Ranenko and his friends, and it is revealed that his host makes his own vodka - a strong Russian liquor. Palin describes how they have to drink toasts in honour of all the people present, only a few of whom speak any English. Needless to say, they all get drunk! This episode highlights one of the great pleasures of travel: meeting new people, making new friends and sharing warmth and friendship. It also shows Palin's ability to capture details that make the incidents so memorable. For example, 'Edward's illegal vodka is served with slivers of garlic in it from a litre Coca-Cola bottle ... with two fresh-picked cherries to be placed in the mouth before each glass.' Yuch! Day 65: Wadi Halfa to Atbara Palin is travelling through Egypt by a train called the Nile Valley Express. It is an old, wooden train that crosses the empty desert on a track first laid in 1897. It is very hot, and Palin does what the Egyptian travellers do: he climbs up and travels on the roof of the train. He describes some wonderful moments that capture the mood of the journey. A man passes along the roof of the train selling tea from a kettle. A man falls off the roof while he is asleep, and the train reverses for half a mile to pick him up. Palin reminds us that hardships make the best stories, and that a little bit of danger adds spice and interest. Day 125: Johannesburg This city in South Africa has very wealthy parts. It also has one of the most famous shanty-town areas in the world called Soweto. Palin talks to both the rich and the poor who live in those areas. You may have heard of the country's former apartheid system, whereby white people dominated blacks and denied them basic human rights. Nelson Mandela fought against this system and became the first president of modern South Africa. This episode illustrates another aspect of this book. You can learn a lot about the geography and history of the world in an enjoyable way. It will awaken a sense of adventure and curiosity about what's happening around you, and will certainly make you want to visit the countries Palin describes.